Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.11.21

Sunburn Orange Tally (5)
Don't miss your first look at stories driving today's agenda in Florida politics.

Cracking down on protesters. Sidestepping voter-approved minimum wage increases. Making it harder to propose constitutional amendments. Guns in churches. You don’t have to look far this Legislative Session to find controversy.

Who cares?

The Legislative Session is also about the tangential and the trivial, but it’s the tangential and trivial which drives the state capital.

That’s why Florida Politics is excited to announce the return of TallyMadness — an online voting competition to determine who is the “best” lobbyist in Florida.

Just like college basketball fans who fill out their brackets as part of “March Madness,” political aficionados in the capital and beyond can vote on a series of bracketed matchups pitting Florida’s top lobbyists against each other.

Bracket time: Get your pencils out — it’s Tally Madness 2021!

But just like last year, we’re mixing things up. This year we want to crown the top in-house lobbyist in #FlaPol. 

In-house lobbyists are those individuals who lobby on behalf of his or her own employer. Think John Holley of FP&L, Mark Kaplan at the University of Florida, or Stephanie Smith of Anthem. Contract lobbyists, such as Nick Iarossi, will be taking the year off.

Right now, we are still accepting nominations for who should make the big dance. From there, a select committee will then seed the lobbyists. Voters will select each matchup winner, with first-round voting beginning this weekend and lasting through the final days of Session.

If you would like to nominate an in-house lobbyist or would like to serve on the selection committee, please email me at [email protected].

Let the TallyMadness begin.

Here are a few other items of note:

🦠 — The day everything changed: March 11, 2020, will live in infamy. Maybe not ‘where were you when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated’ infamy, but close. It’s the day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Various health officials, executives, and just random Americans weigh in on what might have been their last “normal” day for a very long time in a Wired roundup. So, where were you when the pandemic was declared?

💭If you could hop into the wayback machine, what would you tell yourself one-year ago?: That’s the question Slate asked of its staff, all of whom left the office a year ago and still haven’t gone back. Some of the advice to the past versions of themselves is practical — just go ahead and buy a desk now, and those overpriced comfy sweatpants — and others are motivational — visit friends outdoors, don’t worry, Donald Trump loses (hey, that’s their point, not ours) and yes, masks actually do work. Take a look at what the Slate staff ponders and maybe ponder your own ‘what if.’

🩸 — Step-by-step through the night Kyle Rittenhouse became a murder suspect: It’s been months since the then 17-year old activist (and aspiring police officer) took the law into his own hands to defend against crowds of protesters in Kenosha calling for an end to police brutality. After combing through interviews, photo and video, and first-person accounts of the evening, the picture is becoming clear as Rittenhouse faces charges for killing two and maiming a third. Despite numerous cellphone videos showing the shootings, the nation was torn, often along partisan lines, over what really transpired. GQ takes an in-depth look at the details to get to the bottom of it.

Must read on Stacey Abrams’ rise to political prominence: When Democrats flipped both U.S. Senate seats in Georgia blue earlier this year, the most commonly attributed hero in the fight was Abrams. She turned a near-miss election and turned it into a grassroots powerhouse political operation that delivered the Senate seats and a win for now-President Joe Biden in the Peach State. So how did she do it? Abrams sat down with Marie Claire to talk about her work in 2020, her refusal to accept claims that Georgia couldn’t go blue, and her future in politics. It’s a must-read on one of the nation’s rising stars in politics … and a potential lesson for those moving up the ranks.

Stacey Adams and her political rise are the subjects of a must-read profile.

📉What Democrats are reading: With Democrats on a seemingly never-ending losing streak in Florida, TLE Analytics’ Sean Phillippi suggests the party scrap the playbook and start anew. That involves reevaluating data quality, the types of data leveraged, polling and how data is used in campaigns. “The fact that Republicans have better data is a huge competitive advantage for them as it doesn’t matter if the Democratic message is superior when the Republican message is getting delivered as intended, and the Democratic message isn’t being delivered because of incorrect information,” he wrote in an op-ed for Florida Politics. Phillippi suggests utilizing descriptive-analytical data and predictive analytics as a jumping-off point. Read more about it here.

📻With Peter Schorsch and Jack Latvala, it is absolutely a political party: Want to catch up on the latest in Pinellas County politics? Former Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith has you covered with his latest edition of Political Party, with guests Schorsch, Latvala and Florida Politics’ Associate Senior Editor and reporter Janelle Irwin Taylor. Is Charlie Crist Democrats’ best chance at taking back the Governor’s mansion? And is he really going to get drawn out of his Congressional district? How about that St. Pete mayoral race … is a Republican yet to come? Here our speculation and a whole lot more here.


@MollyJongFast: Every vaccinated person gets us closer to the end of the pandemic and the return of normal life

@is_that_a_read: The DC political media is so fucking bored with this administration that they’re literally treating a “dog bites man” story as if it’s earth-shattering news.

@TomasKenn: No Republicans voted for COVID relief. All Republicans wanted to deny you and your family survival checks. Shame on them.

@AriBerman: 2 cases of voter fraud in 2020: let’s pass 253 voter suppression bills in 43 states 525,000 dead Americans: who needs COVID relief?

@MarcoRubio: Soon, we will have to comply with the senseless twice-a-year “time change.” We need to pass my bill to make daylight savings permanent. More daylight in the evenings results in fewer car accidents & robberies. And it allows kids to play outside longer. #LockTheClock

@Fineout: Well, off and running — another day in the Fla. Legislature where the bill sponsor can’t really explain what his bill does or why — and the questions from senators show that they are unaware of history/context

@Photoriphy: The only Black man on the committee, @RamonAlexander, speaking for the first time on HB 1, gets choked up when discussing the bill, bringing up protests in the civil rights era. “If it wasn’t for civil disobedience … I wouldn’t be drinking from the same water fountain as you.”

@AFPFlorida: Thank you, Rep. Randy Fine, for carrying #HB35 on Legal Notices through the Judiciary Committee this afternoon. The bill brings Florida into the 21st century by allowing legal notices to be published online and not just in newspapers.

@RWitbracht: Springtime in Tallahassee is a gift straight from God himself

@RAlexAndrade: Real question: when the death count gets adjusted by over 50%, does @BNBuzz have to move @andrewcuomo ‘s book from the nonfiction to the fiction section?


2021 Grammys — 3; Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League’ premieres on HBO Max — 7; ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ premieres — 15; 2021 Florida Virtual Hemp Conference — 15; 2021 Florida Derby — 16; Disneyland, other California theme parks begin to reopen — 21; MLB Opening Day — 21; RNC spring donor summit — 29; ‘Black Widow’ rescheduled premiere — 57; Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability — 60; ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ rescheduled premiere — 78; ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ rescheduled premiere — 113; Disney’s ‘Shang Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings’ premieres — 122; MLB All-Star Game in Atlanta — 124; new start date for 2021 Olympics — 134; ‘Jungle Cruise’ premieres — 142; St. Petersburg Primary Election — 166; ‘The Many Saints of Newark’ premieres (rescheduled) — 197; ‘Dune’ premieres — 204; MLB regular season ends — 206; ‘No Time to Die’ premieres (rescheduled) — 212; World Series Game 1 — 229; St. Petersburg Municipal Elections — 236; Disney’s ‘Eternals’ premieres — 239; Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ premieres — 274; ‘Spider-Man Far From Home’ sequel premieres — 281; ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ premieres — 379; ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ premieres — 421; ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ sequel premieres — 575.


Ron DeSantis, lawmakers to wield power over federal COVID-19 relief” via Alex Daugherty and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill will send billions of dollars to Florida and its residents, but the state’s Republican Governor and Legislature will ultimately have a lot of power over funds that were passed into law by Democrats. The bill, so big its price tag amounts to about 10% of the entire U.S. economy, includes a lot of significant policies that will affect millions of Floridians, including an additional $300 per week in unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 and a tax break of up to $10,000 for unemployment benefits.

Ron DeSantis will wield enormous power over Florida’s share of the COVID-19 relief fund. Image via Colin Hackley.

First on #FlaPol —Wilton Simpson, Chris Sprowls plan to rebuild unemployment trust with online sale tax” via Jacob Ogles Florida Politics — Senate President Simpson and House Speaker Sprowls released a plan to collect sales tax for online purchases by out-of-state retailers. The money generated would be used to avoid an increase business taxes this year. Revenue estimators predict collecting sales tax at the point of purchase for internet commerce should generate nearly $1 billion in revenue next year alone. A plan endorsed by Simpson and Sprowls would direct all dollars raised this way into Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, at least until that account reaches pre-pandemic levels. Simpson noted consumers by law already owe online sales tax for purchases made online, but most don’t pay it because that requires sending money independently to the Department of Revenue.

Tweet, tweet:

Florida GOP leaders seek to ban election drop boxes in latest voter restriction plan” via Gray Rohrer and Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Republicans on a state Senate panel voted Wednesday to forbid the use of drop boxes to gather mail-in ballots, the latest proposed restriction on voting, and a move condemned by county elections officials of both parties. “The bill is a “travesty,” said Republican Lake County elections chief Alan Hays, adding that it would play “havoc with the lives of 1.5 million Floridians.” The boxes helped election officials retrieve and count the record 4.86 million mail ballots in Florida in 2020 as many voters of both parties opted to avoid in-person voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But in 2020, mail-in ballots were demonized by Trump and his false claims of fraud.

Bill to crack down on violent protests marches forward in Florida House” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida Republican leaders’ efforts to crack down on violent protests is ready for a House floor debate after it cleared its final committee stop Wednesday evening on a party-line vote. State Rep. Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin guided the “Combating Public Disorder Act,” also known as HB 1, through criticism by Democrats, free-speech advocates, college students, and political activists. The League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida Faith and Advocacy Office, Leon County Democratic Party, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation of Tampa Bay, among others, spoke against the increased criminal penalties, additional costs, and what they called an infringement of free speech that the bill creates.

COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers clears committee” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill on Monday that would create COVID-19 liability protections for health care providers. The committee OK’d the measure (HB 7005) with a 15-5 vote. Rep. Colleen Burton is the bill sponsor. Burton’s proposal would create legal shields for health care providers who make a “good faith effort” to follow government health guidelines. By design, it would also raise the bar for plaintiffs who file COVID-19 related lawsuits against health care providers. The bill further ups the evidentiary standards to a “greater weight of evidence” and requires a plaintiff to prove that a provider acted with gross negligence.

Legislature proposes restricting local emergency orders during public health crisis” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — In a 12-6 vote along party lines Tuesday, the House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee approved a bill (HB 945), sponsored by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel that would limit the duration of emergency orders issued by local governments. While Republican committee members expressed a need to safeguard against restraints on civil liberties, Rommel maintained the bill is “not about masks” but the “overreach of local government, picking winners and losers, deciding that your civil liberties, your God-given rights don’t matter.” Currently, local states of emergency can be ordered for seven days and extended indefinitely in seven-day increments as needed. Rommel’s proposal would allow a maximum of 42 days, approved in seven-day extensions.

Bob Rommel wants Tallahassee to preempt local emergency orders. Image via Colin Hackley.

House subcommittee advances proposal to repeal Florida no-fault law” via Jason Delgado of Florida Politics — The House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee voted Wednesday unanimously to advance a proposal that would fundamentally alter Florida’s auto insurance system. Sponsored by Republican Rep. Erin Grall of Vero Beach, the proposal (HB 719) would eliminate Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) requirement and no-fault insurance system in favor of bodily injury liability coverage. The current system, established 50 years ago, requires motorists to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection, or PIP, to pay for medical coverage after an accident. The coverage pays out regardless of which party is responsible for an accident. Under Grall’s proposal, the mandatory bodily injury coverage would be set at $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Senate panel OKs removing VISIT FLORIDA’s sunset clause” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development showed little concern for philosophical arguments against government funding business and gave strong support Wednesday to a bill that frees up VISIT FLORIDA. The panel approved a measure (SB 778), which would eliminate a sunset provision that has required the tourism marketing agency to justify its existence continually. The bill also would allow the agency to carry forward unspent money from one year to the next. The bill and the enthusiastic endorsements that subcommittee members provided suggest lawmakers’ confidence that the agency has emerged from the time, at its worst three or four years ago.

House bill allowing guns at churches with schools heads to final committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — A bill that would allow Floridians with concealed carry licenses to carry a gun to religious institutions, even if there is a school on the property, passed its second committee Wednesday. The legislation (HB 259), filed by Rep. Jayer Williamson, was approved 16-5, with Democratic Reps. James Bush and Daisy Morales dissenting from their party in favor of the bill. Although Florida law does not prevent a person from carrying a gun into a religious institution, the current statute does prohibit individuals from bringing firearms into houses of worship located on the same property as a school.

— TALLY 2 —

Republicans look to curb prescription middlemen’s fees and practices” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — A band of Republican lawmakers hopes to reel in pharmacy benefit managers and save Florida’s Medicaid program millions of dollars. They say their legislation (SB1306/HB1043) would level the playing field to contest unfair practices by pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs. In doing so, one sponsor, Doral Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, said the state could save at least $143 million in the bill’s first year. “Our pharmacies are being gouged for providing services to communities that would otherwise be left no choice, and they’d suffer dire health consequences from lack of access to care,” said Rep. Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Representative who has routinely tackled issues tied to PBMs.

Ana Maria Rodriguez and Jackie Toledo are tackling the thorny issue of PBMs.

Legislation to patch gaps in behavioral health care moves forward” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — The Senate has joined the House to consider a bill that aims to address repeated complaints about mental health care access in Florida. Legislation filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (SB 1024/HB 701) would aggregate complaints in one report that lawmakers plan to use to find the gaps in insurance people find in behavioral health coverage. Through federal and state requirements, consumers should often have access to health care under their coverage. Stevenson’s version began moving last week, and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted Wednesday unanimously to advance Brodeur’s version out of its first committee.

Senate panel offers lukewarm support to optometrist scope-of-practice expansion” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — The Senate Health Policy committee advanced a bill that would give optometrists prescribing authority and allow them to perform certain surgical procedures despite most Senators expressing concern the bill oversteps. SB 876, sponsored by Sen. Manny Diaz, revives the long-running “Eyeball Wars.” Similar legislation has been introduced in past Legislative Sessions, with optometrists largely in support and ophthalmologists staunchly opposed. The division stems from the pathways to similar-sounding, but not identical, careers. Optometrists are primary eye care providers. They are licensed to prescribe corrective lenses and have limited prescription powers, mostly for topical medications such as eye drops.

Bill for broadband internet grants uploaded to final committee, but M-CORES proposal carries implications” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Lawmakers hope to leverage the Department of Economic Opportunity’s new Office of Broadband to expand high-speed internet access in the state. Rep. Chuck Clemons and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are backing legislation in the House (HB 753) to create the Florida Broadband Opportunity Program within the new office to provide grants to extend broadband access to areas without it. For-profit and nonprofit businesses and local governments could file for grants to install and deploy broadband infrastructure under the proposal.

Data privacy bill gets unanimous approval in first hearing” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics — Over opposition from business and legal groups, a House panel gave its unanimous approval to a bill to protect internet users’ data privacy. That measure (HB 969), filed by Sarasota Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland, would give consumers the right to control how their personal data is shared and sold. That data helps businesses know more about individual consumers and help make things like targeted ads possible. The proposal is a priority of DeSantis and House Speaker Sprowls, announced as part of their plans this Session to combat Big Tech, both in social media and on consumer privacy. The social media half of that package has drawn opposition, mainly from Democrats.

Spencer Roach’s bill to require ideological survey of professors clears final committee” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Legislation calling for a survey on the ideological beliefs of Florida’s college professors is now headed to the House floor. The House Education and Employment Committee approved the legislation (HB 233) in a 14-6 vote with a partisan split, except for Democratic Rep. James Bush dissenting from his party in favor of the bill. The proposal, filed by Republican Rep. Spencer Roach, would require the State Board of Education to conduct an annual assessment on the viewpoint of college professors in order “to assess the status of intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.”

With eye on Key West, Florida Senate narrows local ports plan” via Jim Turner of The News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers continued Wednesday to narrow an effort to overturn a decision by Key West voters last year that placed restrictions on cruise ships docking at the city’s port. The Senate Transportation Committee backed a revised bill (SB 426) that initially sought to block local governments from enacting rules on port operations statewide. The revised bill approved Thursday in a 6-2 vote would limit a state “preemption” of local regulations to cruise ship operations in municipal-run ports in Pensacola, Panama City, Key West and St. Petersburg. Currently, only Key West has cruise ship operations. The bill, opposed by Sens. Rodriguez and Lori Berman, also would nullify past referendums.

Jeff Brandes’ electric and autonomous vehicle bills zoom forward” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Senate Transportation Committee passed a series of forward-looking bills on electric and autonomous vehicles. Sen. Brandes said the legislation will keep Florida leading the pack on the path to the future. “Florida really is a leader in this conversation,” he said. “This keeps Florida in the driver’s seat.” But some Senators worry preparing for the future may put up disincentives to those who may invest in cleaner transportation options now. The most controversial legislation Brandes dealt with registration fees for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The bill in question (SB 140) sets a much higher fee for such vehicles because, unlike cars with internal combustible engines, drivers for these pay little or no gas tax.

Jeff Brandes’ electric vehicle expansion bill is speeding along nicely.

Seatless bike legislation speeds through latest committee” via Haley Brown of Florida Politics — A Senate bill to remove a seemingly obscure biking regulation disallowing seatless bikes earned unanimous support in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. The legislation would make way for elliptical bicycles, one of the many ways cycling is experiencing a boom in popularity since the pandemic. Pedaling the bill (SB 738) is sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley. Baxley said people in The Villages and other parts of Florida ride the standing bicycles. In a House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee meeting, sponsor of House companion legislation (HB 353), Rep. Brett Hage, said The Villages’ residents had received tickets for riding the seatless bikes.

—”Florida State Parks license plate ready for final House committee approval” via Renzo Downey of Florida Politics

PACE septic-to-sewer expansion clears first Senate panel” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A bill that would expand the list of home improvement projects eligible for PACE financing earned unanimous support in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. SB 1208, sponsored by Doral Republican Sen. Rodriguez, would add several improvement projects to the PACE list, including battery installations, asbestos mitigation and the replacement of lead pipes. The headliners, however, are septic-to-sewer conversions and flood mitigation projects. SB 1208 now heads to Senate Finance and Tax Committee. The House companion, HB 387 by Brevard County Republican Rep. Fine, will go before the House Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee on Thursday.

Senate panel advances student retention bill — The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education unanimously approved a bill that would make it easier for Florida parents to hold their children back in school due to the pandemic. As reported by Andrew Atterbury of POLITICO Florida, SB 200’s advance came after some rewrites that would put school principals in charge of the retention requests. Principals would discuss potential holdbacks with both teachers and parents before a determination is made. The bill also was amended to allow legal guardians to request grade retention.

Senate FDOT package starts rolling — The Senate started working on this years’ transportation package, which will be housed in SB 1126 and SB 1500. As reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida, the massive bills are packed with changes to state transportation laws, including provisions to raise the bonding cap for right of way acquisition and provide the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles subpoena powers in odometer fraud, title fraud or driver’s license fraud investigations.

Capitol Reax:

FRF praises plan to replenish unemployment fund The Florida Retail Federation praised a plan unveiled by Simpson and Sprowls that would use approximately $1 billion in new sales tax collections from online retailers to refill the state’s unemployment trust fund. Florida Retail Federation president and CEO Scott Shalley lauded the plan. This plan is a creative approach to tackle multiple challenges our state faces. It will bolster Florida’s retail businesses, both big and small, while bringing much-needed revenue from out-of-state to provide support to the workers who have suffered job loss during the pandemic.”

Florida Ports Council encourages lawmakers to fine-tune ports bill — Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler thanks the Senate Transportation Committee for amending SB 426, which would preempt local government ordinances that interfere with seaport commerce, but said the bill still houses some provisions that could bring unintended consequences. He said the council “remains concerned the bill negatively impacts four municipal ports, restricting their ability to recruit new cruise ship port activity that would generate additional economic opportunities. As this bill and its companion HB 267 continues to move through the legislative process, we look forward to working with lawmakers to help ensure that ownership and control of Florida’s 14 deep water seaports remain with their respective local governments.”

APCIA opposes no-fault repeal sans bad faith reform — The American Property Casualty Insurance Association said it couldn’t get behind the latest effort to repeal the state’s no-fault system unless it was coupled with significant reform to “bad faith” laws. “House Bill 719 repeals Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system without addressing much needed bad faith reforms, which could lead to higher costs for consumers and increased litigation,” APCIA VP Logan McFaddin said. “Florida already has some of the highest auto insurance costs in the country and our state’s court system is experiencing a significant backlog of cases due to the pandemic.” … “Any attempt to repeal the existing no-fault auto insurance system should contain bad faith reforms that will combat rampant litigation abuse, ensure policyholders’ rights are protected, and help lower auto insurance costs for Floridians.”


Lawmakers debate political bias on college campuses” via Anila Yoganathan of The Associated Press — Young conservatives fear being ostracized on college campuses, where school officials may be imposing an environment that promotes liberal views while stifling conservative thought, according to Florida Republicans who are spearheading a legislative effort that they argue would protect free speech at the state’s public universities. Florida lawmakers are hardly the first in taking up the fight, which critics say could lead to the amplification of dangerous hate speech. Over the past three years, seven states have enacted measures over free speech on college campuses.

Young Republicans feel they are outnumbered on campus. Image via AP.

‘Countless people were affected by this system’s failure,’ inspector general says of flawed jobless website” via Caroline Glenn of the Orlando Sentinel — An investigation into Florida’s unemployment website uncovered what frustrated laid-off workers already knew: “Countless people were affected by this system’s failure.” The state’s chief inspector general, Melinda Miguel, said that during a House committee meeting Wednesday, the first opportunity she’s had to discuss the findings of her agency’s investigation into the site. At one point in April, the DEO had managed to only process 4% of the 850,000 applications for unemployment benefits it received. A year out from the onset of the pandemic, some people say they’re still waiting on benefits. Miguel’s office released a preliminary report last week that largely blamed Deloitte Consulting for selling Florida a system that hadn’t been properly designed or tested.

‘Tears a couple corners off the Constitution’: Andrew Warren slams anti-riot legislation” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics — Warren, the Hillsborough County State Attorney, is asking Florida legislators to reject a contentious anti-rioting bill supported by DeSantis, calling it an attack on First Amendment Rights. “This bill doesn’t give police or prosecutors any important new tools to handle unrest. It tears a couple [of] corners off the Constitution,” Warren said in a news release. The legislation would increase penalties for crimes committed during a riot. Its supporters say this will protect law enforcement and prevent public disorder seen at the US Capitol and amid unrest last summer following George Floyd‘s death. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to debate the bill at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. If it passes, it will be sent to the House floor.

Parents of trans athletes lobby against legislation targeting youth sports” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — A mother discussed her transgender daughter being forced to compete on a boys soccer team despite intense bullying. Another recalled her trans son coming out at 11 years old and her personal commitment to make a safe world for her child. Coaches neared tears as they discussed the importance of sports in child development and the threats they face. Equality Florida focused a Pride Day news conference on the rights of transgender children, particularly access to athletics. All of it happened as legislation surfaces in states across America, including in Florida, that would primarily restrict school athletics based on gender assigned at birth.

—“Randy Fine’s moment of silence in schools measure clears final committee unanimously” via Kelly Hayes of Florida Politics


With a tip of the hat for LobbyTools, here are the latest movements — both on and off — the legislative merry-go-round.

On and off: Margaret Adiar is replacing Daniel Martinez as a legislative assistant to Hialeah Gardens Republican Sen. Manny Diaz.

On: Marlon Diaz is the new legislative assistant to Miami Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia.

Off: Jessica Garafola stepped down as legislative assistant to Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shev Jones.

On and off: Sarah Massey is replacing Kaitlyn Currey as a legislative assistant to Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

On: Janeen Lofton is the new legislative assistant to Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

On: Nazbi Chowdhury is the new legislative assistant to Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose.

Off: Zac Stone stepped down as legislative assistant to St. Cloud Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins.

Off: Melissa Burnos stepped down as district secretary to Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne.

On: Amelia Keaton is the new legislative assistant to Shalimar Republican Rep. Patt Maney.

On: Gina Rotunno is the new district secretary to Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Felicia Robinson.

On and off: Ashlee Evers is replacing Gary Pheabus as a legislative assistant to Escambia County Republican Rep. Michelle Salzman.

On: Nahja Dieudonne is the new district secretary to Hollywood Democratic Rep. Marie Paule Woodson.


 EMPOWER Patients latest comic: ‘Papa PBM’ wants you to do business with his pharmacy — The fourth comic strip in the Papa PBM series highlights patient steering and how prescription drug middlemen are “getting paid twice.” A recent AHCA report revealed major anti-competitive inconsistencies. One PBM controls 41.1% of the Florida Medicaid market. This same PBM fills 48% of all prescription drug claims for Florida Medicaid recipients. EMPOWER Patients believes that competition is what has driven pharmacists throughout history. Competition keeps industries in check and results in better services for Florida families. They are calling for an end to the “anti-competitive system” that limits access.

EMPOWER Patients calls AHCA PBM presentation ‘disturbing’ — Florida Pharmacy Association CEO and EMPOWER Patients member Michael Jackson said a Wednesday presentation from the Agency for Health Care Administration on the effects pharmacy benefit managers have on the Medicaid system was “disturbing” and called on the Governor to dig deeper into “AHCA’s clearly cozy relationship with PBM players.” He added, “We categorically reject the premise that a multibillion-dollar state program has no problems with how the program is administered. It’s clear that prescription drug middlemen have entrenched support within AHCA and state bureaucrats clearly have clouded judgment. It is inconceivable that while 23 other states have addressed PBM reform within their own Medicaid systems, Florida’s system is without problems.”


New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Miguel Abad, New Century Partnership: Cemex Construction Materials Florida, H.O.P.E. Mission

Sandy Ahn: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Amy Bisceglia, AB Governmental Affairs: Mental Health Association in Indian River County

Rachael Bonlarron: Palm Beach State College

Angela Bonds, French Brown, Marc Dunbar, Peter Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Christopher Moya, Jim Naff, Teye Reeves, Jennifer Ungru, Dean Mead: 2201 N. Miami Avenue Owner LLC

Julie Brown: Department of Business & Professional Regulation

Matt Bryan, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Match Group Holdings

Dean Cannon, Carlecia Collins, David Daniel, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission

Joanne Chan: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Stephanie Clary: SKD Consulting Group

Michael Fischer, The Legis Group: Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association, International Door Association

Amanda Fraser, Colodny Fass: American Property Casualty Insurance Association, G4S Secure Solutions, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts

Nicole Kelly, Erin Rock, The Southern Group: Aon Benfield, Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers

Fielding Greaves: AdvaMed

Tyler Jefferson: Department of Management Services

Natalie Kato: National Redistricting Action Fund

Crystal Stickle, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Governmental Utility Authority, Government Services Group

Jared Willis, Strategos Public Affairs: MGT Consulting Group


The Senate will hold a floor Session, 2:30 p.m., Senate Chamber.

Other legislative meetings:

The Senate Rules Committee, 8:15 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Appropriations Committee, 9 a.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Ways and Means Committee, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Finance and Tax Committee, 9 a.m., Room 110, Senate Office Building.

The House Rules Committee, 11:30 a.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, 11:30 a.m., Room 412, Knott Building.

The House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee, 12:45 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee, 12:45 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, 12:45 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, 12:45 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Early Learning and Elementary Education Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.

The House Professions and Public Health Subcommittee, 2:30 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Subcommittee, 4:15 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Post-Secondary Education and Lifelong Learning Subcommittee, 4:15 p.m., Room 212, Knott Building.

The House State Administration and Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, 4:15 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The House Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy Subcommittee, 4:15 p.m., Room 404, House Office Building.


Rick Scott implores states to ‘reject and return’ stimulus money. DeSantis wants more.” via Wendy Rhodes of The Palm Beach Post — In an open letter to Governors and Mayors, sent moments after the U.S. House on Wednesday approved the $1.9 trillion bill, U.S. Sen. Scott called it “massive, wasteful and non-targeted,” urging states to follow his lead and send a message to Congress to “quit recklessly spending other people’s money” by returning any unneeded funding. His letter comes as polls show the legislation is extremely popular. A Morning Consult/Politico poll found 69% of U.S. voters said the “package is the right amount” or “doesn’t go far enough,” including 54% of Republicans. Apparently, the latter includes Scott’s successor, Gov. DeSantis, who complained Florida should be getting a bigger piece of the pie.

Rick Scott says ‘reject the money.’ Ron DeSantis says ‘not so fast.’ Image via AP.

DeSantis again denies pardon to ex-felon voting advocate Desmond Meade” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — On a day when advocates for ex-felons could celebrate another big win, Meade was again denied a pardon by DeSantis. DeSantis also would not expedite Meade’s clemency, saying he should go through the proper channels. Meade, of Orlando, spearheaded the push for Amendment 4 in 2018, which restored the right to vote for former felons in Florida. But at a clemency board hearing in Tallahassee on Wednesday, DeSantis said that while “I’m not saying that he hasn’t done good things,” he would not grant a pardon because of Meade’s dishonorable discharge from the Army. Meade was a former addict convicted on drug and firearm charges in 2001 before turning his life around and earned a law degree.

Dane Eagle says CONNECT system will be ‘new shiny car’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s overhaul of its overwhelmed and underwhelming CONNECT unemployment benefits online system will turn it into a “new shiny car” when it’s all done, Eagle promised a Senate committee Wednesday. Eagle responded to Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz‘s lament that the disastrous $77 million system, which failed last year when Florida’s unemployment rate skyrocketed and millions tried in vain to access it, and which has essentially been abandoned now by the original prime contractor Deloitte Consulting, might need complete replacement. “It seems like we keep fixing this old, beat-up car that doesn’t even run, right? And at some point, you gotta say we need a new car,” urged Cruz, of Tampa.

DeSantis tries again to strip the Florida Cabinet of its powers” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — For the second year in a row, DeSantis is pushing for a bill to eliminate Cabinet oversight over a slew of agency and state personnel rules and transfer many of those powers to himself or agencies he controls, arguing that America’s Founding Fathers envisioned a “unitary executive.” DeSantis spokesman Cody McCloud said the bill, HB 1537, would “create a more efficient and effective government, which has always been central to the Governor’s mission.” It would remove Cabinet oversight of many issues connected to Fried, a Democrat, such as its ability to review water management district rules and consumptive use permits issued by DEP. The state’s hemp plan from Fried’s office would also require DeSantis’ approval instead of the Cabinet’s.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference, 9:30 a.m., Southside Sports Complex, 1963 SW Bascom Norris Drive, Lake City. RSVP at [email protected].

DeSantis ally Shane Strum reels in sweet deal to run Broward Health with contract finessed by his lawyers” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog — Strum, the Governor’s chief of staff, will become CEO of Broward Health later this month with a handcrafted three-year contract worth $1.3 million annually, despite having no hands-on experience running a hospital. Broward Health’s seven-member board, hobbled by three long-unfilled seats, unanimously voted 4-0 to approve the Fort Lauderdale resident’s contract on Feb. 24 in what looked to be something of a rush toward the end of its regular meeting. Each of those commissioners was appointed by former Republican Governor-now-U.S. Sen. Scott. The deal’s political overtones are obvious, raising questions about whether the taxpayer-assisted North Broward Hospital District, as it is legally known, is backsliding toward the muck of political influence.

More than 40% of Florida kindergartners are not ready for kindergarten; ‘That’s a failure on us’” via Danielle J. Brown of the Florida Phoenix — For many Florida families with young children, a child’s education starts much sooner than kindergarten. A new class of kindergartners is expected to start school with some sense of the fundamentals, such as language, literacy and math. But for the 2020-21 school year, at least 43% of kindergartners in classes now are not actually ready for kindergarten, according to state data. That’s 57,534 Florida students who went to kindergarten in the 2020-21 academic year and took what’s known as the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener about a month into the school year. The kids were deemed “not ready” for the grade they were in — kindergarten.

Florida spent $3.6 million for a company to drop its SunPass bid. Is this normal?” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tampa Bay state Senator wants answers about a deal where the Florida Department of Transportation paid a company $3.6 million in 2015 to drop its protest over a lucrative contract to overhaul the SunPass system. State Sen. Tom Lee asks the new transportation secretary why the deal was made, which ensured that Conduent State & Local Solutions would win the estimated $600 million contract despite concerns over the New Jersey company’s troubled history. Those concerns were realized last year, when Conduent started processing state tolls and botched the job, leading to overbilling and a backlog of millions of unpaid tolls.

Wall Street A-listers fled to Florida. Many now eye a return” via Katherine Burton, Annie Massa, Amanda L. Gordon and Jonathan Levin of Bloomberg — For months now, A-listers and lesser-lights from the world of high finance have been traveling to the Sunshine State while riding out COVID-19. Hopeful locals see evidence that the area’s long-elusive dream of luring Big Finance for good might be coming true at last. Along Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, real estate agents count commissions from a pandemic-induced real estate boom. Private schools fantasize about attracting the Spence set. The reality is more nuanced — much more. Only a small percentage of Manhattanites moved permanently to Florida last year. And as vaccinations stir fresh hope that the pandemic’s end is near, ebullient talk of South Florida drawing Wall Streeters en masse is already beginning to fizzle.

Walking is hazardous to your health in Florida, the deadliest state for pedestrians” via Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald — The Sunshine State retained its notorious No. 1 ranking as the place where a pedestrian is most likely to be struck and killed by a driver in the United States, according to the 2021 “Dangerous By Design” report from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. Nine of the 15 most hazardous U.S. cities for pedestrians are in Florida, with Orlando ranked as least safe and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolis ranked No. 13 in the biennial study. Drivers hit and killed 53,435 pedestrians, about 17 per day, throughout the country between 2010 and 2019. The report emphasized that fatality rates are disproportionately high for the elderly, Blacks, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and walkers in low-income communities.

Being a pedestrian in Florida is not good for your health.

‘Carbon farming’ could soon be new cash crop for Florida growers” via WJCT — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the agriculture sector accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. Biden wants to reward farmers for using climate-friendly practices on their lands. Big agriculture companies are already paying growers in the Midwest to plant crops that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and use techniques to keep that carbon in the soil. Those developments and others have spurred hope that the business of carbon may soon come to Florida. Greenhouse gasses can be emitted when farmers till the land. When preparing for new crops, the traditional practice of overturning soil releases carbon from the soil back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It also destroys the natural ground structure.

— 2022 —

Lauren Book brings in $250K in February as she weighs CFO run” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Sen. Book added nearly $251,000 in February alone, according to the latest fundraising reports filed with the Division of Elections. The haul comes as Book considers whether to seek another Senate term or run for the Chief Financial Officer position. She now has a massive war chest containing more than $2.18 million as of Feb. 28. Outside of Nikki Fried’s 2018 win in the Agriculture Commissioner contest, Florida Democrats have struggled in statewide races in recent years. But Book’s sizable fundraising numbers could help her right the ship for Democrats after a strong 2020 cycle for Republicans. Book first joined the Senate after winning a 2016 contest in Senate District 32, following redistricting.

Lauren Book builds her war chest as she decides the next move. Image via Colin Hackley.

Grady Judd backs Jennifer Canady for HD 40 — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd endorsed Republican Canady in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Colleen Burton. “Jennifer is an unapologetic supporter of our law enforcement community, an ardent defender of the Second Amendment, and a fiscal conservative who will balance Florida’s budget and keep taxes low. I know we can count on Jennifer to stand up for our conservative values and our founding principles in Tallahassee,” Judd said in a news release. Canady is one of three candidates seeking the GOP nomination in the Polk County-based seat. She faces Nicholas Poucher and Lakeland City Commissioner Phillip Walker.

Architect Orlando Lamas launches bid to replace Bryan Avila in HD 111” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Orlando Lamas, an architect based in Hialeah, says he’ll be a candidate for the Republican nomination in House District 111 next cycle. Incumbent Republican Rep. Avila is term-limited heading into the 2022 cycle. That gives room for Republican candidates to line up for a shot to represent the right-leaning district. I’m excited and encouraged by the people of the district to pursue this seat,” Lamas said in a news release announcing his run. Lamas is a University of Florida grad. He doubled up at UF with a master’s degree in architecture. Since 2000, Lamas has headed a construction firm, Three County Construction. In 2003 he launched his own architecture firm as well.


Florida reports 59 COVID-19 deaths, the lowest number in more than three months” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida reported the lowest COVID-19 death count since late November, in another sign the disease may be on the retreat in the state. Florida reported 4,853 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and another 59 new resident deaths linked to COVID-19. The state has now reported 1,957,586 cases since the pandemic began. The number of deaths reported for each day is a cumulative total that reflects deaths that took place over days and weeks, so it can be difficult to tell how much weight to give a single day’s report. But the seven-day average of daily death counts has been declining since late January, providing some optimism that the worst may be over.

Vaccination politics in Florida: VIP lists? Donor favors? Time to investigate.” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — When Democrats first started accusing DeSantis of playing politics with vaccinations, I didn’t pay it much mind. After all, Democrats always criticize Republicans. And vice versa. And these particular accusations — that DeSantis was steering vaccines to campaign donors and places that might help him politically while families with Down syndrome and other medically vulnerable groups were struggling for access — were so ugly and outlandish, they were hard to believe. Except now, we’re starting to see the secret text messages and hear from the health officials involved in setting up some of these vaccination efforts. And it’s looking like an actual fire might be generating all this smoke.

With Ron DeSantis’ handling of vaccinations, there are simply too many issues to ignore.

Florida close to opening vaccinations to all, DeSantis says” via Megan Reeves of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida will open coronavirus vaccinations to people as young as 55 “relatively soon,” then make shots available to everyone, DeSantis said Wednesday during an appearance in Sumter County. The state’s age-based eligibility for vaccination is 65 and up, and it will move to 60 and up starting Monday, DeSantis said. “We’ll lower the age to 55 in due time,” he added. “It’s all dependent on how we’re doing with getting the 60 to 64. But that will happen relatively soon.” After that, the state “probably could just open it up to the general public at that point,” DeSantis said, pointing out that Florida’s supply of doses from the federal government is growing, as is the Federal Pharmacy Program.

Florida vaccine supply to rise again with Moderna, Pfizer while next shipment of J&J uncertain” via Richard Tribou of the Orlando Sentinel — Continued increase in the Pfizer vaccine means Florida will once again see a jump in supply next week. The data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday nearly 20,000 more doses of Pfizer over this week’s allotment. An equal number of second doses for each of the two vaccines has also been allotted, with the first doses usually arriving from Monday-Wednesday each week. Moderna’s supply remains the same, so between the two, Florida will receive 489,970 initial doses, up from 470,080 arriving this week. In the past week, the state also received its initial supply of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a total of 175,100.

— “Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine comes to Florida: Here’s where it’s going” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Want a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in Florida? Here’s where to go for your shot” via Ben Conarck of the Miami Herald

About 1.8 million Florida seniors are still not vaccinated” via Bailey LeFever of the Tampa Bay Times— Three months after DeSantis announced that seniors were his top priority in the coronavirus vaccine rollout, about 1.8 million of the state’s residents 65 and older still hadn’t been vaccinated as of Monday. DeSantis is expanding vaccination eligibility next week to anyone 60 or older, adding another 1.4 million people to those vying with seniors for the often hard-to-get vaccine appointments. Health care workers, people of any age with existing health conditions, and firefighters, teachers, and law enforcement officers 50 and older also are eligible.

As COVID-19 spreads fast in Florida prisons, no vaccines have been given to its inmates” via Ana Ceballos of the Miami Herald — Three months into Florida’s vaccination efforts, DeSantis has yet to make vaccines available to state prisons, even as corrections officials have requested doses and identified thousands of elderly inmates who meet the state’s eligibility requirements. “The department is ready and willing to administer, but they have not received any supply,” Senate Criminal Justice Chairman Jason Pizzo said. Inmates who meet the state’s age group criteria could be waiting for the foreseeable future. The governor’s office won’t say when supplies will be made available to the state Department of Corrections, only saying DeSantis has “made it clear” he will not prioritize inmates ahead of the other vulnerable populations and front-line workers.

DeSantis order cancels COVID-19 fines after ‘unprecedented local government restrictions’” via WFLA — DeSantis has filed an executive order that cancels all fines related to local government COVID-19 restrictions on people and business. The order states any fines imposed between March 1, 2020, and March 10, 2021, fines imposed by any political subdivision of Florida related to local government COVID-19 restrictions are canceled. The order goes on to say it can serve as a defense to the collection of those fines. The order only applies to local government and not any enforcement or COVID-19 related orders taken by the state. It also does not cancel fines imposed on assisted living facilities, hospitals or health care providers.

Tweet, tweet:


Each major South Florida county has now administered at least 500K COVID-19 vaccine doses” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — All three major South Florida counties have each delivered at least 500,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots as the fight to inoculate the region continues. Broward and Palm Beach counties sit just above that threshold. Broward has administered more than 509,000, while Palm Beach has placed nearly 508,000 shots in arms. Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most populous county, has administered close to 667,000 shots. In total, vaccinators have doled out more than 1.68 million shots. Close to 600,000 people are fully vaccinated across the three counties.

Ineligible COVID-19 vaccine seekers crowd site at Miami-Dade College” via Glenna Milberg and Andrea Torres of — Informal lapses on state eligibility requirements at the temporary COVID-19 vaccination site in Miami-Dade College North Campus, motivated some to show up on Wednesday with unrealistic expectations. Many said they drove to Westview from Broward County. Mike Jachles, the chair of the Florida Association of Public Information Officers, described a chaotic scene. “What we are discouraging strongly is people driving from other areas, other counties,” Jachles said. ”They are parking cars, blocking businesses, blocking private homes … trying to jump the line.”

Blacks on coast to get 1st permanent vaccine site” via Jane Musgrave of The Palm Beach Post — A permanent coronavirus vaccination site could be opened in Riviera Beach as early as next week, closing a key gap that left predominantly Black neighborhoods without access to the lifesaving shots, a county commissioner said Wednesday. A day after Palm Beach County officials said they needed Riviera officials’ cooperation to establish a site at Wells Recreation Center, city officials said they were more than willing to help. But, they said, no one had asked. “We always stand ready, willing and able to assist,” said Riviera Beach Fire Chief John Curd. “I haven’t heard anything from the state or the county about making the site permanent.”

A vaccine site in Rivera Beach will be the first permanent pod to serve a Black community.

Pop-up vaccine sites in Sweetwater and Florida City are on the move to new locations” via Michelle Marchante of the Miami Herald — Federal pop-up vaccination sites in Sweetwater and Florida City are moving and will reopen Thursday at two new locations in Miami-Dade County. On Thursday, the sites will open at Allen Park Community Center at 1770 NE 162nd St. in North Miami Beach and at the Miami Springs Community Center at 1401 Westward Dr. The sites will remain at the new locations through March 17. The sites will return to Ronselli Park Youth Center, 250 SW 114th Ave. in Sweetwater, and the Florida City Youth Activity Center, 650 NW Fifth Ave., when it’s time for people who got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to receive their second injection, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

—“Walgreens expands COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups to Palm Beach County” via Lisa J. Huriash of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Bay County is best in Panhandle at mass COVID-19 vaccination turnout, officials say” via Jacqueline Bostick of the Panama City News-Herald — After waiting for more than a month, Patrise Chambless finally had her turn at getting the COVID-19 vaccination on Sunday. “It was very smooth. We had our paperwork already completed online, so we basically walked in,” she said. “I feel fine. I feel anybody should get it as a preventive medicine versus not getting it prevented.” The 67-year-old Panama City Beach resident was one of more than 600 people who registered for the vaccination event held at the Lynn Haven Senior Center, 904 Pennsylvania Ave. In a news release Friday, DeSantis’ office made the announcement of the weekend events, which added to the targeted 70 events held since January that seeks to vaccinate underserved communities.

2 new FEMA COVID-19 vaccine sites open Thursday in Tampa Bay” via WFLA — Two new FEMA-supported satellite COVID-19 vaccine locations open Thursday in the Tampa Bay area. The new site in Ruskin will be at Hillsborough Community College’s SouthShore campus, at 551 24th St. NE. The site will be available March 11-14 and then will be moved again, to Plant City Stadium, 1810 S Park Road in Plant City, where it will stay through March 17. The second mobile site will relocate to Walker Road Park in Lakeland on Thursday and will stay there through March 17. The new Ruskin and Lakeland locations are relocating from Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus and from Lake Maude Park in Winter Haven.

Pinellas County health agencies making vaccine accessible through different clinics” via Megan Gannon of WFLA — Clearwater residents are feeling grateful for a vaccine clinic at a local rec center, telling 8 On Your Side it offered easy accessibility to the vaccine. The North Greenwood Rec Center was the site of a vaccine clinic on Wednesday. The Division Chief of Emergency Management for the City of Clearwater said the site was allotted 500 doses of the vaccine. For Charlie Campbell, this is what he has been waiting for, as he has experienced issues, like many, trying to register for an appointment.

—”Fort Walton, DeFuniak, Callaway early sites for Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine” via Jeffrey Schweers of The Northwest Florida Daily News

—“Walk-up COVID-19 vaccine clinic set for Milton; West Florida accepting Thursday appointments” via The Pensacola News Journal

—“Drive-up FEMA vaccine site opens in Lakeland on Thursday” via Sara-Megan Walsh of The Lakeland Ledger

Flagler Health+ recognizes anniversary of the first patient diagnosed with COVID-19 in northeast Florida” via Gina Mangus of Flagler Health — One year ago today, Flagler Health+ made history as the first health care system in Northeast Florida to treat a patient diagnosed with COVID-19. And over the course of the year that would follow, nearly 600 patients were treated for COVID-19 at Flagler Hospital, thousands of people were tested, and now, thousands were vaccinated by Flagler Health+. Each staff member was vital to ensuring that patients received the best possible care. And now, Flagler Health+ will recognize each team member as a “COVID-19 Hero” with a commemorative pin. Close to 2,000 pins will be distributed to recognize the resiliency, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment to the patients served throughout a very difficult year.

Flagler Health+ recognizes its ‘COVID-19 Heroes.’

DOH Leon cancels March 13 COVID-19 vaccine clinic due to appointment slowdown” via WCTV — The Florida Department of Health in Leon County has canceled its upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinic due to a slowdown in scheduled COVID-19 appointments from the state’s vaccine preregistration system. Those with confirmed appointments for Saturday’s clinic are currently being contacted to reschedule their appointments. Anyone with an appointment for the March 13 vaccine clinic will now be scheduled for DOH, Leon’s March 16 clinic, which will be operating from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the DOH Leon Administration Building located at 2965 Municipal Way.


Joe Biden got the vaccine rollout humming, with Donald Trump’s help” via Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times — When Biden pledged last week to amass enough vaccine by late May to inoculate every adult in the United States, the pronouncement was greeted as a triumphant acceleration of a vaccination campaign that seemed to be faltering only weeks earlier. And production of two of the three federally-authorized vaccines has indeed sped up in part because of the demands and directives of the new president’s coronavirus team. But the announcement was also a triumph of another kind: public relations. Because Biden had tamped down expectations early, the quicker timetable for vaccine production conjured an image of a White House running on all cylinders and leaving its predecessor’s effort in the dust.

Joe Biden’s vaccine ramp-up was a PR triumph as well.

Biden announces his intention to secure another 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.” via Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times — Biden said on Wednesday that he was directing the federal government to secure an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 single-shot vaccine, a move the White House said could help the country vaccinate children and, if necessary, administer booster doses or reformulate the vaccine to combat emerging variants of the virus. Biden made the announcement during an afternoon event at the White House with executives from Johnson & Johnson and the pharmaceutical giant Merck, where he praised them for partnering to ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a deal brokered by the White House.

Virus drove record U.S. death rate in 2020, CDC finds” via Erin Banco of POLITICO — The U.S. death rate increased by 15% last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, making it the deadliest year in recorded U.S. history, the CDC will announce, according to two senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter. The agency will summarize its findings in an upcoming issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Its analysis will detail the rates at which U.S. residents of various races and ethnicities died as a result of the virus as well as the total number of deaths in each demographic group, those sources said. COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, the report found. “Unintentional injuries” is normally the third-leading cause of death, officials said.

‘Hoping for a flood’: How states are preparing for a surge in vaccine supply” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post — State and local health officials who have spent months rationing shots are now racing to be ready for a surge in supply, enough for every adult by the end of May, as Biden promised last week. They’ve been advised to plan for between 22 and 24 million doses a week by early April, an increase of as much as 50% from current allocations, according to two people familiar with the estimates who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss them.

—“Alaska makes vaccines available to those 16 and older, becoming first state to remove eligibility requirements” via Isaac Stanley-Becker of The Washington Post

Black and Hispanic communities are confronted with vaccine misinformation.” via Sheera Frenkel of The New York Times — Black and Hispanic communities are confronting vaccine conspiracy theories, rumors and misleading news reports on social media. The misinformation includes false claims that vaccines can alter DNA or don’t work, and efforts by states to reach out to Black and Hispanic residents have become the basis for new false narratives. “What might look like, on the surface, as doctors prioritizing communities of color is being read by some people online as ‘Oh, those doctors want us to go first, to be the guinea pigs,’” said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories.

Federal officials relax guidance on nursing home visits, citing vaccines and slowing infections” via Amy Goldstein of The Washington Post — Federal health officials on Wednesday substantially relaxed the government’s guidelines for family and friends to see nursing home residents in person, saying that vaccinations and a slowing of coronavirus infections in the facilities warrant restoring indoor visits in most situations. The nursing home guidance, the first federal advice on the subject since September, says “outdoor visitation is preferred,” even when a nursing home resident and family or friends are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.


Restaurants are big beneficiaries of COVID-19 relief bill” via Joyce M. Rosenberg of The Associated Press — Restaurants devastated by the coronavirus outbreak are getting a lifeline from the pandemic relief package that’s awaiting Biden’s signature. The bill that gained final congressional approval Wednesday adds money to the PPP and provides indirect help to small businesses in general through stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. But restaurants got the biggest share of direct help: $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants whose revenue fell in 2020 due to the pandemic. The bill calls for grants equal to the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location.

Restaurants are some of the biggest winners in the COVID-19 relief bill. Image via AP.

13,000 American Airlines workers told to ‘tear up’ layoff notices after COVID-19 bill passes” via Travis Pittman of WTSP — American Airlines on Wednesday told 13,000 workers who were given layoff warning notices in February to “tear them up” after Congress passed the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. The American Rescue Plan includes funding to support payrolls. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker and President Robert Isom sent a letter to thousands of workers telling them that jobs in jeopardy are now safe. “For our 13,000 colleagues who received Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices last month, those are happily canceled; you can tear them up!” they wrote in an email to workers. The executives also sounded an optimistic tone about the future as COVID-19 vaccinations increase across the country.

—“Census data paints bleak picture of how COVID-19 affected working moms” via the Orlando Sentinel


Volunteers are key at vaccine sites. It pays off with a shot” via Terry Tang and Manuel Valdes of The Associated Press — When Seattle’s largest health care system got a mandate from Washington state to create a mass COVID-19 vaccination site, organizers knew that gathering enough volunteers would be almost as crucial as the vaccine itself. “We could not do this without volunteers,” said Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, the chief quality officer for Swedish Health Services and head of its vaccination site at Seattle University. As states ramp up vaccination distribution in the fight against the coronavirus, volunteers must do everything from direct traffic to check people in so vaccination sites run smoothly. In return for their work, they’re often given a shot.

The perk of being a vaccine volunteer — a vaccine. Image via AP.

Late-stage pandemic is messing with your brain” via Ellen Cushing of The Atlantic — I first became aware that I was losing my mind in late December. It was a Friday night, the start of my 40-somethingth pandemic weekend: Hours and hours with no work to distract me and outside temperatures prohibitive of anything other than staying in. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to fill the time. “What did I used to … do on weekends?” I asked my boyfriend, like a soap-opera amnesiac. He couldn’t really remember either. Everywhere I turn, the fog of forgetting has crept in.

This week marks one year since COVID-19 upended our lives. It’s OK to let ourselves feel whatever emotions that brings up” via Julie Gallagher of CNN — This month marks one year since COVID-19 upended American life. This week in March 2020, most Americans left their offices and schools to quarantine for what was only supposed to be a few weeks. It was supposed to flatten the curve so that hospitals didn’t become overwhelmed. We thought staying 6 feet apart from each other would be just a temporary inconvenience for the greater good. We thought we could prevent the death toll from reaching 1,000 people. We assumed normalcy would come by summer.

Anthony Fauci marks COVID anniversary with hope and a warning: Don’t ‘underestimate’ virus” via Michael Wilner of the Miami Herald — Fauci is hopeful that a nation devastated by the coronavirus pandemic might soon be within the grasp of some normalcy. But reflecting on the anniversary of the pandemic, Fauci also expressed caution, sharing the most important lesson he has learned in the past year: “Don’t ever underestimate this virus.” The leading U.S. infectious disease expert told McClatchy in an interview Wednesday that, with over 2 million Americans getting vaccinated every day, the country could reach a level of protection within months that would begin lowering the risk of individuals contracting the virus in social settings. At that point, he said: “We should see a considerable degree of flexibility in what we can do — much more than what we can do right now.”

Anthony Fauci warns us that the virus still poses risk. Image via AP.

COVID-19 is also raising the death toll from opioids” via Bloomberg Opinion — More than 535,000 lives have been lost to opioid overdoses. If that grim number seems familiar, it’s just a bit higher than COVID-19’s toll of 527,000 deaths so far. COVID-19 and the opioid crisis are linked in other ways, too. The pandemic has driven an alarming increase in overdose fatalities over the past year, as people struggling to recover from opioid dependence have been undone by isolation, job loss, and the added difficulty of getting support and treatment with social-distancing rules in effect. All this at a time when lethal illicit fentanyl is increasingly turning up in street narcotics, including counterfeit hydrocodone and oxycodone pills.


Biden wants to sell the stimulus. The White House is still figuring out how.” via Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — The Biden administration weighed putting the president’s name on stimulus checks to make sure he got credit for helping the millions of Americans who will receive aid, but rejected the idea in recent days. The White House is planning for Biden to hit the road to promote the $1.9 trillion plan, but officials have not settled on where he should go. And there is currently no major advertising campaign focused on the proposal. As Democrats prepare to celebrate what they see as one of the most significant domestic policy achievements in modern history, the White House has yet to fully develop a strategy for the next crucial step: selling it to the American public.

—“What’s in Congress’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill: Checks, unemployment insurance and more” via Rachel Siegel The Washington Post

—”New COVID-19 relief bill will save thousands of Miami-based airline jobs” via Janine Stanwood of 

—“Biden’s $1.9tn COVID-19 relief bill marks an end to four decades of Reaganism” via David Smith of The Guardian

Biden’s name will not appear on $1,400 stimulus payments” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — The White House said Tuesday that Biden’s name would not appear on the $1,400 stimulus payments set to be sent out to millions of American families as part of the administration’s relief package, a reversal from the precedent set under Trump. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the payments approved under Biden would instead be signed by a career official at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an office within the Department of Treasury. The House is expected to vote on the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan as soon as Wednesday, putting it on course to be signed into law by Biden next week.

One thing missing on the latest round of stimulus checks — Joe Biden’s signature.

Biden yet to act on overturning some Trump immigration policies” via Anita Kumar of POLITICO — Since he took office, Biden has sworn to overhaul draconian Trump-era policies, crafting a kinder, gentler immigration system where everyone — from refugees to asylees to students to billionaire CEOs — is welcome. There’s just one problem: Despite the massive immigration package he introduced on Day One and the flurry of executive orders that soon followed, Biden’s policies have yet to catch up with his rhetoric. To be sure, Biden inherited a complicated puzzle — a convoluted system designed to do the exact opposite of what he wants it to do. He’s only been in office for six weeks. And much of his energy has been focused on battling the pandemic.

Cuba policy shift ‘not a top priority’ for Biden, White House says” via Nora Gámez Torres of the Miami Herald — The Biden administration is not in a rush to change Cuba policy, which is currently under review, the White House said Tuesday. “A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities,” spokeswoman Psaki said at a press briefing. She added the administration was committed “to making human rights a core pillar of our U.S. policy” and “to carefully reviewing policy decisions made in the prior administration, including the decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.” Biden promised during his campaign to lift current restrictions on remittances and travel to the island, but it is unclear if he will pursue a new thaw in relations with Havana.

Merrick Garland wins Senate approval, opening Biden era at DOJ” via Chris Strohm of Bloomberg — The Senate confirmed Garland as U.S. Attorney General, filling a major position in Biden’s Cabinet and ushering in a new era at the Justice Department. The 70-30 vote Wednesday in the evenly divided Senate reflected substantial Republican support for Garland, who pledged to make decisions and pursue investigations independently from Biden and the White House. His predecessors Jeff Sessions and William Barr came under withering criticism for bending to political pressure from Trump and his allies.

Marcia Fudge has ambitious plans for HUD — even though she didn’t want the job.” via Katy O’Donnell and Maya King of POLITICO — The Senate confirmed Fudge as the next Housing Secretary in a 66-34 vote Wednesday, clearing the way for her to take on a cascade of crises: millions of people facing eviction amid a pandemic, a rise in homelessness, soaring housing prices worsening a yearslong affordable housing crunch. And when Fudge reports for work at the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Brutalist headquarters in Southwest D.C., she’ll also be taking over an agency that is itself in crisis. This wasn’t the job that Fudge initially wanted. But last month, at her Senate confirmation hearing, the Congress member made an impassioned pitch to overhaul housing policy.

Senate confirms Michael Regan to lead EPA” via Brady Dennis and Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post — The Senate confirmed Regan on Wednesday as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, a role that lies at the heart of Biden’s promises to cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and help poor and minority communities that have long borne the brunt of pollution. He will be the first Black man to lead the EPA in its half-century of existence. “He is immensely qualified for this position, not only in qualifications but in his demeanor,” U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said on the Senate floor before voting for Regan. “Too often, we overlook whether a nominee has the right character to lead an organization. In this case, there’s no question that Michael Regan has that character.”

Michael Regan will be the first Black man to lead the EPA in its half-century of existence. Image via The Washington Post.

Elizabeth Warren builds clout with Biden through pipeline of staff picks” via Nancy Cook of Bloomberg — Biden has shown little appetite for Warren’s trademark campaign proposal, a wealth tax, but she’s won something else from the president, as nearly a dozen of her allies and former aides have joined his administration. The Massachusetts Senator’s associates hold top posts at the White House and federal agencies handling issues ranging from financial regulation to national security and climate change. The hires have helped assuage progressives concerned Biden isn’t sympathetic to their views but have set off alarms in the banking and financial sector. The influx of her staffers and allies into Biden’s orbit has been part of Warren’s conscious, multi-year plan and progressives to zero in on personnel picks when a Democrat next took the White House.


Recording of Trump phone call to Georgia lead investigator reveals new details” via Cameron McWhirter of The Wall Street Journal — Then-President Trump urged the chief investigator of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to look for fraud during an audit of mail-in ballots in a suburban Atlanta county, on a phone call he made to her in late December. During the six-minute call, which The Wall Street Journal reviewed, Trump repeatedly said that he won Georgia. “Something bad happened,” he said. She responded: “I can assure you that our team and the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation], that we are only interested in the truth and finding the information that is based on the facts.” The Washington Post reported on the call in January, but this is the first time the recording has been released.

Of course, there’s another phone call.

Manhattan prosecutors advance probe into Trump’s Seven Springs estate” via Corinne Ramey of The Wall Street Journal — Manhattan prosecutors are intensifying their investigation into Trump’s businesses, aiming at a Westchester County, New York, estate that the former President unsuccessfully tried to develop, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent weeks, according to the people, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has issued new subpoenas and requested recordings of local government meetings related to the Trump Organization’s failed attempt to create a luxury subdivision at Seven Springs, a 213-acre property that the former President bought for $7.5 million in 1995. Trump has valued the property at up to $291 million in financial statements that the New York Attorney General’s office, which is also investigating Seven Springs, said were given to financial institutions.

Parler blocked on Apple’s app store after Capitol riot review” via William Turton and Mark Gurman of Yahoo News — Parler, the controversial conservative social media app, was denied reentry to Apple Inc.’s App Store recently after it was kicked off the platform in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. On Wednesday, Parler LLC cut its three remaining iOS developers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company eliminated seven workers in total, most of whom were contractors. The other staff worked on Parler TV and quality assurance, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. When it initially removed Parler from the App Store in January, Apple asked the social network to change its moderation practices. 

This is a BFD — “Beth Moore, a prominent evangelical, splits with southern baptists” via Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The New York Times — From the outside, the marriage of convenience between White conservative Christians and Trump looked like a devoted one: White evangelicals voted for Trump overwhelmingly in 2016 and stuck with him in 2020, brushing aside perpetual lies and sexual impropriety to support a man they saw as their protector. However, not everyone was content. Now, one of the most prominent White evangelical women in the United States is breaking with her longtime denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, citing the “staggering” disorientation of seeing its leaders support Trump, and the cultural and spiritual fallout from that support.


Justice Amy Coney Barrett riles conservatives with moderate rulings” via Alex Swoyer of The Washington Times — Barrett, who was billed as a jurist in the mold of the late conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia, is raising eyebrows with early rulings in which she sides with the high court’s moderates. Justice Barrett appeared to break with her mentor Scalia, for whom she clerked, when she joined the moderates and liberals on the bench in rejecting a pro-Trump challenge to Pennsylvania’s election laws and leaving in place some COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship. She was Trump’s third high court appointee and has been on the bench for only about four months, not leaving much time for her to craft her own opinions.

Mitch McConnell, amid Trump’s threats, tells GOP Senators their political operation has outraised the former President’s.” via Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Sen. McConnell, the minority leader, boasted privately to fellow Republicans on Wednesday that their fundraising efforts had outperformed Trump’s after the former President took aim at the Party’s committees in a bid to control its financial future. McConnell’s comments at a weekly party lunch, which were described on condition of anonymity by three people briefed on the meeting, represented a response of sorts to Trump trying to throw down the gauntlet on fundraising. The former President recently suggested that he would be a better steward of the Republican Party’s money and use the resources to target incumbent Republicans he finds insufficiently loyal.

Mitch McConnell boasts that Republican fundraising outpaced Donald Trump’s Image via AP.

Scott’s bet: COVID-19 relief bill will be a political loser for Democrats” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Sen. Scott on Wednesday told a national radio audience that Republican Senate candidates are going to have a “great 2022,” thanks in part to the COVID-19 relief bill slated to pass the House this morning. Scott, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told listeners to the Hugh Hewitt program that success will be in part due to the landmark American Rescue Act relief legislation. “The COVID bill they passed, it’s not going to be popular in a few months. When people figure out what’s in this thing, they’ll be furious,” Scott predicted. Scott expects this to lead to “great candidates” and a “great win.”

How does the $1.9 trillion stimulus package impact food and farming?” via H. Claire Brown of The Counter — In less than one week, expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans, but help is likely on the way. After the Senate passed its $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package over the weekend, the House, in a floor vote scheduled for Wednesday, is expected to pass the final bill along party lines. The legislation, known as The American Rescue Plan, would then head to Biden’s desk, where he is expected to sign it before the benefits lapse. In addition to sending $1,400 checks to most Americans, the legislation would extend $300 weekly expanded unemployment benefits through September 6 and increase the child tax credit.

Why a Florida Republican Congressman has Britney Spears on his mind” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz waded into the #FreeBritney movement when he invoked the name of multiplatinum pop singer Spears in a letter to the chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Gaetz mentioned the pop star’s name Monday when he joined fellow Republican Rep. Jim Jordan in requesting a congressional hearing regarding the practice of court-ordered conservatorships. Spears, 39, has been under one since 2008. It seems the congressmen consider the practice potentially, ahem, “toxic.” The Gaetz-Jordan letter also mentioned “questionable motives and legal tactics” used by Spears’ father, Jamie.

Matt Gaetz jumped on the #FreeBritney bandwagon. Image via AP.

Happening today — GrayRobinson will host a virtual event titled “Restoring Bilateral Trade Between Canada and Florida” to discuss trade between Canada and Florida. Hosted by firm President and former House Speaker Dean Cannon, speakers include Consulate General of Canada in Miami Susan Harper and Enterprise Florida SVP Manny Mencia. The event is from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Register here to attend.


Despite pandemic, 300,000 expected at Daytona motorcycle rally” via Johnny Diaz of The New York Times — About 300,000 people are expected to descend on Daytona Beach this week for a large annual motorcycle rally called Bike Week that is taking place during a pandemic in a state with few restrictions to slow its spread. Excitement about the event has been tempered by pushback from some motorcycle enthusiasts in a Facebook group dedicated to the rally who feared it could turn into a coronavirus superspreader event. Last August, the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota drew more than 450,000 bikers, most of whom did not wear masks or appear to follow social-distancing guidelines. The Sturgis rally was later blamed for outbreaks in other states.

Daytona Bike Week 2021 expects to draw more than 300,000.

One of Jacksonville Mayor’s final acts might turn out to be his best” via Nate Monroe of The Florida Times-Union — Mayor Lenny Curry will propose legislation in the coming months increasing Jacksonville’s gas tax by 6 cents to jump-start a nearly $1 billion campaign to complete backlogged road projects — many of which will include adding bike lanes and sidewalks to busy thoroughfares and will including drainage improvements — as well as financing a Jacksonville Transportation Authority effort to modernize the Skyway and upgrade bus stops and other transit infrastructure throughout the city. It would be the largest targeted public works campaign since the $2.2 billion Better Jacksonville Plan. This infrastructure plan isn’t quite Curry’s swan song, but it’s one of his final acts. It could be his best.

Top law official describes ‘extremely lax’ security at hacked water plant” via Stephanie Matat of Fresh Take Florida — A top Florida law enforcement official told DeSantis and other state leaders that “extremely lax” security at a municipal water plant northwest of Tampa allowed hackers to break into its computers to try to poison residents earlier this year. The head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Rick Swearingen, provided the unexpected update on the mysterious sabotage effort during a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee. The criminal investigation continues in the case. No one was hurt.

Miami School Board members speak out on Instagram account targeting Superintendent Alberto Carvalho” via Colleen Wright of the Miami Herald — Four Miami-Dade County School Board members on Wednesday spoke publicly about a now-deleted Instagram account targeting Carvalho. The account, named “I have a lover” with the handle @superintendentofmiami, made rounds among Tallahassee political circles and Miami-Dade teachers and administrators. It featured several intimate selfies of Carvalho, both shirtless and clothed, and accused him of cheating on his wife. The account had 14 posts and was following 55 other accounts before it was locked down Tuesday. On Wednesday, the account was deleted around noon.

In the Keys, all students can return to classrooms full time on March 29” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — The Monroe County School District on Tuesday said it will offer full-time, in-person instruction for all students starting March 29 in response to a state order. But Superintendent Theresa Axford said the schools might have trouble maintaining social distancing in classes. “While we will do our best to make this a safe transition, please be aware we may have difficulty ensuring students maintain a safe distance from one another while they are attending classes in-person,” Axford said in a statement. “Students, staff and visitors will still be required to wear masks, and we will continue to emphasize the importance of hand-washing and sanitizing at all times.”

Coral Gables Commission OK’s compromise Miracle Mile rezone. Candidates dislike it.” via Andres Viglucci and Samantha J. Gross of the Miami Herald — Coral Gables commissioners on Tuesday easily approved a controversial zoning measure that could spur small- and midscale redevelopment on struggling Miracle Mile by lifting parking requirements for new buildings while enacting a strict 4-story cap on height. By a decisive 4-1 vote and with virtually no debate, the Commission officially embraced a compromise hammered out in a public workshop on March 1 following several virtual community meetings on the issue. Vice Mayor Vince Lago, who is vying with Commissioner Patricia Keon for the Mayor’s seat in elections on April 13, voted no.

Bay County Commissioner Tommy Hamm sues Netflix over docuseries ‘ Immigration Nation’” via Tony Mixon of the Panama City News Herald — Hamm filed a lawsuit March 4 against Netflix and those involved with a documentary series on immigration that accuses him and his company, Winterfell Construction, of wage theft. The 101-page lawsuit lists numerous items, including emotional distress and defamation. Hamm said back in August, when the public caught wind of the series, that he would take legal action against Netflix and those involved with the documentary. The group Resilience Force, which accused Hamm of wage theft, was listed in the lawsuit along with Netflix.

Tommy Hamm sues Netflix over a documentary that accuses him of wage theft.

Sarasota’s coastal residents are urging city leaders to take action on proliferating hotel houses” via Allyson Henning of WFLA — Residents on St. Armands and Lido Key have posted signs around their neighborhood that read ‘stop the hotel houses’. Locals say the issue first started on the island back in 2019 when developers first started purchasing old homes, demolishing them, and rebuilding mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods. “They are coming in and building businesses. This is not a house. This is a little hotel. It has seven or eight bedrooms and bathrooms. It is not even configured for a family, it is configured like a hotel and the amenities that go along with a hotel,” St. Armands resident Mike Adkinson said. Adkinson has lived on the key for about seven years. He still remembers the turning point on his street.

Voracious super termites are carving out a new existence in South Florida, leaving decades-old trees gutted and vulnerable” via Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Normally, termites make their homes in dead or harvested wood, such as timber used in houses. But the more voracious species, often called super termites, are finding new sources of food in some of South Florida’s largest and oldest living trees from Palm Beach County to the Keys. Experts say they are seeing signs that normally wind-resistant trees such as oaks are being compromised. “That’s one of the big things I’m concerned about, especially in South Florida, and especially here in Broward, where we have a big population of Asian subterranean termites that within 20 years have spread extensively from the old part of the city … areas with beautiful old canopies,” said Tom Chouvenc, an urban entomology professor at UF/IFAS.


John Morgan: Stop the reefer madness, oppose THC caps” via Florida Politics — Almost every big change in Florida has come from citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. In every case, Tallahassee does its best to overturn the will of The People. Now they are at it again. They hope to reduce the amount of THC in medical marijuana so much as to be worthless. Go to any MMTC in Florida; you will see mostly older people in line for marijuana. Because it works. And THC is a key ingredient. It is almost impossible to even grow it with less than 10% — the exact cap being proposed in Tallahassee. Their reasoning? Because lots of use by children can result in psychosis, they say. They say they have “studies” and “science.” It. Doesn’t. Exist. Such utter bullshit.


DeSantis’ change to civil rights for felons necessary and long overdue” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — With little fanfare, the state of Florida took a major step forward Wednesday, and DeSantis deserves credit for it. DeSantis and the three elected Cabinet members wiped out Florida’s repressive requirement that former felons wait five years before applying for the restoration of their civil rights, something needed to serve on a jury or obtain a license for certain jobs. This change is good news, but it took much too long. The passage of Amendment 4 should have made the automatic restoration of civil rights a no-brainer more than two years ago. Still, this is a good start, and DeSantis and Cabinet members did the right thing.

A civics lesson: Florida’s sordid voting rights past, and its grim future” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — A rite of passage for each Florida legislative session is proposing a new law telling schoolteachers what to teach. This year’s proposal builds on previous, successful efforts to mandate civics instruction. The bill requires a “discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.” We agree. If the Legislature mandates an examination of ideologies that conflict with democracy, teachers should start with the anti-democratic ideals that have tainted our republic from its beginning and continue to flourish today, centuries later, in the halls of Florida’s Capitol.

Don’t let Legislature tip voting scales for DeSantis” via Howard L. Simon for the Orlando Sentinel — There’s no nice way to put this: The Legislature and the Governor are trying to manipulate the rules governing elections in order to favor DeSantis’ reelection next year. Democrats came out of the 2020 presidential election with a significant advantage in applications for mail ballots. But now come Sen. Baxley and DeSantis claiming that in order to bolster citizen confidence in the integrity of the election system, voters should be required to request absentee ballots for each election rather than, as at present, have their application to vote by mail approved for two general election cycles. The result, if the measure is approved — millions of Florida voters will have their vote-by-mail applications erased, forcing them to reapply.

It’s time: Collecting online-sales taxes is only fair” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat — The first and most important thing to remember about pending internet sales tax legislation is that it’s not a tax increase. If it clears the Legislature and gets signed by DeSantis, maybe you’ll wind up paying a bit more when you buy stuff online. And state and local governments would reap hundreds of millions of dollars they’re currently missing out on. But it’s not a tax increase because we’re all supposed to be paying the sales tax now. We just don’t, usually, and the state has no reasonable way of making us pay up.


Republican leaders in the Senate unveil a new plan to mess with the vote-by-mail process, and voting rights groups are calling them out.

Also, on today’s Sunrise:

— Republicans insist they are not trying to suppress the vote; it’s all about preventing fraud in the future.

— The Governor and Cabinet adopt new rules to try to streamline the clemency process. Attorney Richard Greenberg says it’s about time.

— The clemency board also voted to rescind any fines imposed by local governments for violating mask mandates or other COVID-19 rules.

— Gov. DeSantis opens a new pod where seniors in Sumter County can get the one-dose COVID-19 vaccination from Johnson & Johnson.

— The Florida Department of Health reports 62 more fatalities from COVID-19. Did you ever imagine a time when 62 deaths in one day is considered an improvement? 

— And finally, a Florida Woman is jailed in New Orleans, accused of firing several shots into a crowd and wounding two teenagers on Bourbon Street. And a Florida Man is busted after bouncing on his neighbor’s trampoline in the nude.

To listen, click on the image below:

— ALOE —

After cancellation last year, 2020 FSU grads get their chance to walk in May graduation ceremony” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University President John Thrasher, who recently announced in-person commencement services for the Class of 2021, says the Class of 2020 is getting the same treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the university to cancel traditional ceremonies last year and make the pomp and circumstance virtual. But those graduates now have their chance to walk and flip the tassel. Ceremonies for Class of 2020 graduates will be held at the Tucker Center on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23. Social distancing requires graduates will be seated on the Tucker Center floor, and allowed four guests each in the audience.

In-person graduation will return to FSU for the class of 2020. Image via Facebook.

Attention, Spring Break tourists: Age matters at this Fort Lauderdale hotspot” via Madeleine Marr of the Miami Herald — This may come as a buzzkill to spring breakers, but a popular bar recently added age restrictions for out-of-towners. Meaning that if even if you’re of legal age, 21, you won’t be able to get into The Wharf Fort Lauderdale, at least for now. On Instagram, the popular outdoor venue posted a notice saying that if you carry an out-of-state ID, you must be 23 and up, through March 31. For those who fit the criteria: “General admission & walk-ups are welcome,” says the post. “However, we will be operating at reduced capacity. Masks must be worn at all times while walking through common areas and when not eating or drinking.”

What Kevin Sweeny is reading — “St. Johns County Buc-ee’s hosts grand opening” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — The Buc-ee’s grand opening in St. Johns County began around 6 a.m. Monday with a line of people waiting for the doors to open, managers said. By a little after 10 a.m., people were still buzzing around the convenience store and gas station near the World Golf Village in St. Johns County, the first location in Florida. The day included a visit by Buc-ee’s co-founder Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, known as Beaver since his mother gave him the nickname.


Fans eager to renew Players Championship tradition after pandemic year” via Jennifer Ready of News4Jax — Some fans at The Players Championship said they’re enjoying their first major sporting event in the last year because of the pandemic, and they’re eager to get outside and enjoy the event safely. For many people in Northeast Florida, The Players Championship is a tradition. Andrew Kennon and his family look forward to the tournament every year. “Just came out to walk with my daughter and get her outside,” Kennon said. “I volunteered a couple [of] years before, and we usually come every year. This is her first time.” Kennon is one of many fans planning to check out the action this week and feel a sense of normalcy.

For The Players 2021, excitement abounds, but fans are sparse. Image via the Jacksonville Business Journal.

The Players Championship fan experience, 2021 version: Contactless, hopefully seamless” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — The only thing normal about going to The Players Championship this week will be the drive to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. The Tour’s prevailing feeling is that it’s too early to relax COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The 2021 Players won’t be spring break. “It will look different,” said executive director Jared Rice. “It will feel different. What we’re asking is that fans comply with the protocols and do it for the greater good. This will be an amazing opportunity to show the world, through our [TV] telecast, that this community came out and supported the event in a safe manner.”

—“PGA tour is about to admit its largest crowd of the year” via Bill Pennington of The New York Times 

—”The Players Championship one year later: The lost round, the return to golf” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union 

Anniversary marks progress of pandemic, not the end” via Doug Ferguson for The Associated Press — The backdrop was a navy blue board filled with 33 logos of The Players Championship. Sitting next to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was the gold trophy as he spoke about scrapping the tour’s premier event last year and how golf made it through the COVID-19 pandemic. At least there wasn’t a “Mission Accomplished” banner. It’s tempting to think that way. Monahan mentioned the phrase “light at the end of the tunnel” on three occasions during his news conference Tuesday, which typically is more of a “State of the Tour.” This was a state of the pandemic.

Justin Thomas surprises cancer patient at The Players Championship” via Mia O’Brien of First Coast News — March 11, 2020, is largely regarded as the day “the world shut down” due to the coronavirus pandemic. But for Jacksonville native T. Bender Middlekauff, his world changed on March 8, 2020. Middlekauff suffered a seizure at a friend’s house and was rushed to Baptist Medical Center Beaches. It was soon discovered that the seizure was provoked by a type of tumor known as a glioma that occurs in the brain and spinal cord and is most common in men ages 30-60. Bender’s treatment plan moving forward will include seven weeks of radiation treatment followed by six weeks of chemotherapy at Baptist MD Anderson. Two months after surgery, he carded his second career hole-in-one at Timuquana Country Club.

Field of green: Players Stadium Course weathers cold winter, in pristine condition” via Garry Smits of the Florida Times-Union — It’s been more than a decade since the First Coast has had a colder winter. TPC Sawgrass director of agronomy Jeff Plotts said he and his team were still able to get the Players Stadium Course “worthy of the best players in the world” for this week’s Players Championship. Indeed, Plotts said there is a benefit to some cold weather for a March Players, as long as it doesn’t get too extreme. And the 18 nights of frost that he counted on the property during the winter — more than in the previous five years combined since he became the superintendent — helped keep the Bermuda grass from growing and battling the winter rye for supremacy on the fairways and greens.

PGA Tour institutes ‘Bryson Rule’ with internal OB left of the lake on No. 18 at TPC Sawgrass” via Adam Shupak of Golf Week — Just days after Bryson DeChambeau said he would consider aiming left of the water at the dogleg-left par-4, 462-yard 18th hole at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the Players Championship Rules Committee has installed an internal out of bounds left of the lake for play of Hole 18. Rules officials heard about DeChambeau’s latest gambit and nipped any thoughts of taking a unique route at 18 in the bud. Any shot coming to rest left of the white stakes on 18 will be determined to be out of bounds.


Celebrating today are Emily Jeanne Barber, Floridian Partners’ Nichole Geary, and Janet Scherberger.


Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, A.G. Gancarski, Renzo Downey and Drew Wilson.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704